My Mother’s Nightdress

By Jessica Yu | 21 Nov 14

My mother’s nightdress is a difficult poem to write.
I am warning you now, you
will not give in to this poem.

My mother’s nightdress is not your mother’s nightdress or your father’s nightdress,
it is not your grandmother’s nightdress or your grandfather’s nightdress.

It is a spineless thing that falls to the floor
open-mouthed, a skin my mother has stepped out of
in the afternoon as she decides to go.

At night, it stalks her steps around the room,
its smooth green leaves are punctured by moth-teeth.
You cannot imagine this; you haven’t seen her in it.

My mother’s nightdress is from a marketplace
you have never pushed your way through:
It smells of fried finger bananas, hawkers squawking and plastic wrapping.
It sounds like the words you absorbed as an infant when
you couldn’t understand but sounds were criss-crossed
from one mouth to another.
My mother’s nightdress isn’t sheer; did you imagine it to be so?
Shame on you.
It is a dress meant for mornings spent
collecting droplets with a cloth.
It is a dress meant for watching T.V. in bed,
glass of weak tea to hand.
It is a dress she bartered a few ringgit down for, now you’re thinking, is it ethnic?
No, it is my mother’s nightdress.

Jessica Yu is the recipient of the 2014 Young Writers Innovation Prize and the founding editor of the forthcoming interactive narrativity journal, Betanarratives. She is poetry editor at Voiceworks and editorial assistant at Peril. Her most recent and forthcoming poetry, fiction and non-fiction can be read in The Best Australian Poems 2014, The Lifted Brow website, The Digital Brow and the Kill Your Darlings blog, Killings. Follow Jessica on Twitter: @jessicazmyu